Voices from the Arab press: The historic Negev Summit

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

 DUPING THEIR interlocutors time and again: Armed Iranian mullahs march during a military parade in Tehran. (photo credit: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)
DUPING THEIR interlocutors time and again: Armed Iranian mullahs march during a military parade in Tehran.
(photo credit: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)

The historic Negev Summit

Al-Ittihad, UAE, April 1 

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The historic Negev Summit brought together the foreign ministers of four Arab countries for the first time in Israel, with their counterparts, the foreign ministers of Israel and the US. The summit took place at a precise time that coincided with major global events such as the Ukraine crisis and the negotiations with Iran over a new nuclear deal. It is worth noting that the Negev Summit was preceded by a tripartite summit in Sharm e-Sheikh, in the presence of the leaders of Egypt, Israel and the UAE, who are three of the most prominent US allies in the region. The Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, spoke publicly about this issue, saying: “The removal of the Revolutionary Guard Corps from the US terror watch list is among the few outstanding issues,” which confirms the existence of negotiations between Washington and Tehran on this exact point. 

The arrival of the foreign ministers to the Negev Summit coincided with the Israeli government’s announcement of its approval to increase the quota of Palestinian workers from the Gaza Strip to 20,000, which confirms the fact that the moderate Arab countries attach great importance to improving the standard of living for the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, terrorism reared its ugly head during the summit, as ISIS-affiliated terrorists committed a despicable attack in the town of Hadera. The attack was condemned by all the foreign ministers present at the summit. 

Among the most prominent outcomes of the summit is the establishment of a regional security framework for cooperation against ballistic missiles, drones and piracy in the Red Sea, in a clear indication that the Abraham Accords peace agreements contributed to laying the foundations of security and stability in the region, in order to achieve safe lives for all peoples and nations.

 THE TWO sides discussed almost everything, including the export of Indian mangoes to Japan (Illustrative). (credit: Jacqueline Brandwayn/Unsplash) THE TWO sides discussed almost everything, including the export of Indian mangoes to Japan (Illustrative). (credit: Jacqueline Brandwayn/Unsplash)

In a speech delivered by His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan during the Negev Summit, the Emirati foreign minister said: “300,000 Israelis visited the UAE in the last year and a half and, at the same time, two million visitors visited the Israel Pavilion at the Expo in Dubai in just six months... this shows us the extent of curiosity and the desire to know each other.” These simple and sincere words express the feelings of every human being who is searching for true peace; a feeling that is strengthened by the growing relations between the countries participating in the summit. – Ahdiya Ahmed al-Sayed 

Iran’s negotiating strategy

Okaz, Saudi Arabia, April 2

The Iranians have their own negotiating style. If we look historically at how they dealt with their opponents, how they conducted their negotiations, and how they reached results and gains, we will find that they used an identical strategy that has repeated itself time and again. Unfortunately, Western negotiators suffer short-term “negotiating memory,” which allows the Iranian mullahs to dupe their interlocutors time and again. For example, Tehran builds its negotiations with the West in general and with America in particular by explicitly crossing redlines and testing its opponents’ reactions in real time. Of course, these attacks are carried out by the hands of Iranian mercenaries and subcontractors such as Hezbollah, the Iraqi militias or the Houthis, allowing Iran to benefit from the results of the attacks without footing the bill and without losing leverage in negotiations. 

During the period of US president Barack Obama, negotiations took place between Iran and America on the first nuclear agreement, and when those negotiations reached bottlenecks or explosive topics, Tehran then fabricated security and political crises – for example, in Iraq, Afghanistan or southern Lebanon – to pressure and blackmail Washington into making concessions. Iran has turned these crises into negotiating cards that can be traded with the West to solve diplomatic impasses, which would have otherwise remained insolvable. The conversation surrounding the removal of the Revolutionary Guards from the terrorist list follows the same strategy. Lifting the sanctions off the Revolutionary Guards is not a topmost priority for Iran, but rather appears as a secondary goal. 

So why does Tehran insist on this? Removing the Revolutionary Guards from the terror watch list indicates the existence of a crisis in the negotiations. Tehran is using this card to deflect attention away from more major obstacles taking place in its talks with the West, with a desire to reach a quicker agreement that suits its needs. Iran wants to exhaust America and bog it down in complicated peripheral issues that would keep its attention away from the major, and more controversial, questions at hand.

Then, when Washington is exhausted, Tehran would concede and agree to keep the Guards under sanctions, but would demand far-fetched concessions in return – perhaps in places like Yemen, Syria or Lebanon. This will inevitably come at the expense of America’s longstanding partners and allies in the region, which is what Riyadh always warns of. – Mohammed al-Saed

 Deliberate deception is our most burning challenge

Al-Qabas, Kuwait, April 3

A number of parliamentarians, some of whom are well known and widely respected, presented a recommendation to the government to establish a national authority for crisis and emergency management in response to the events unfolding in Ukraine these days. The entire proposal is meaningless. If established, this body will become nothing more than a corrupt entity used to employ the family members of these politicians and their cronies. 

Let me assure you that this authority would achieve many goals, but emergency preparedness and management will not be one of those things. The crisis that we are facing, or that we will face, if the Russia-Ukraine war extends and expands further, can be addressed through channels and forums that already exist in our country. The military, National Security Council, food authority and even agricultural associations and major food importers can all be brought together to address the situation. We do not need another council, devoid of actual expertise and authority, to convene and pretend to address our issues. 

And if these parliamentarians are truly wary of the dangers facing Kuwait, then there are far more burning problems that must be addressed at the national level. One timely and alarming issue is the number of forged Kuwaiti passports and identity cards that are being discovered each and every day. Every month we learn of more cases of identity theft and forged certificates, some of which were achieved with the help of corrupt government bureaucrats. 

This phenomenon comes hand in hand with the forging of educational and professional credentials by prominent businessmen and politicians across the country. A pharmacist all of a sudden became a doctor, a school teacher began claiming he is a professor, and a worker in the field all of a sudden turned into an “agricultural engineer.” When will this deliberate deception stop? – Ahmed al-Sarraf  

India and the Ukraine War

Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, April 3

In recent years, India and the three other members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – Australia, Japan and the US – have worked to strengthen their relations. This rapprochement was evident when Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited India last week for the annual Japan-India summit. Separately, the Australian prime minister also participated in a virtual Indo-Australian summit, which discussed bilateral and international topics such as recent developments in Ukraine. India and Japan have close relations that keep getting stronger. This was evident when the Indian leadership convened and agreed to expand the important economic cooperation between the two countries. The two sides discussed almost everything, from the export of Indian mangoes to Japan, to the import of Japanese apples by India, including India’s investment of about $42 billion over five years. 

A convergence of views on international issues has also emerged, as the two countries view each other as important for peace, stability and development in the Pacific region. In this context, the two sides agreed to cooperate in new areas, such as information sharing, cybersecurity, housing, urban flood management, sanitation and intelligent transportation management systems. Likewise, discussions with Australia were also important. 

The virtual summit between Australia and India took place a day after the Japanese prime minister’s visit. Relations between India and Australia have deepened in recent years, with increased cooperation in the fields of defense, trade and investment. Bilateral discussions dealt with international issues such as the situation in Myanmar, where the two sides called for adopting a conciliatory approach. Furthermore, the two countries agreed to deepen trade and expand cooperation in areas such as rare-earth elements. Indian minerals company Kapil and Australia’s Bureau of Rare Metals have decided to create a framework for building partnerships in rare-earth investments. The two countries are currently negotiating a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement and plan to sign an early harvest agreement soon. Much progress has been made in the negotiations in this regard in a very short time. Relations with both Australia and Japan are important for India, at a time when the latter seeks to strengthen its role in the world. 

However, at the same time, the Indian prime minister was keen in his talks with the two leaders to preserve India’s strategic independence. While other members of the Quad criticized the Russian invasion of Ukraine, India refrained from taking sides, adopting a neutral position. Indeed, two members of the US-led quartet, Japan and Australia, have not only condemned Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, but also imposed harsh sanctions on Moscow, including on individuals close to President Vladimir Putin. 

In his remarks to the press after the summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi refrained from making any direct comments on Ukraine, saying only that “geopolitical events pose new challenges.” As for the Japanese prime minister, who was making his first trip abroad this year, he described the Russian military operation in Ukraine as “a very dangerous issue that shakes the foundations of the international system.” India abstained from voting more than six times in the UN, including in the Security Council, against Russia, for which it won thanks from Moscow and criticism from the West. For example, the US, noting India’s unique relationship with Russia, warned that India could end up on the wrong side of history. The joint statement issued in the wake of the India-Japan summit more than three years after the last summit, embodied the strongest consensus of positions between the two sides, calling for an end to violence, and “expressed genuine concern about the current conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, while sympathetic to India’s view, has not shied away from criticizing Russia’s action, even as Modi avoided any reference to Ukraine and Russia in his opening address to the media. Some observers saw in the Australian position a kind of understanding of the Indian position. The two summits reaffirmed that India, despite the pressures it is under, will remain unique regarding Russia’s position within the quadrilateral  security forum. So far, it is clear that India has adopted a clear stance on Ukraine that is in line with its national interests and sends a clear message that it will preserve its strategic independence – a message that appears to have encouraged Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to visit India this week amid developments in Ukraine. – Zikru al-Rahman 

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.